Yesterday, searching for information on a ship of the line toured by the young ladies from Erle Stoke Park — HMS St. George (90 guns) and those who sailed on her in 1792, I came across the most arresting portrait, in oils, of a very mannish-looking woman.
Indeed! a genuine portrait of le Chevalier d’Eon!
The blog post I found is a couple years old, and tells the story of art dealer Philip Mould “uncovering and identifying” the sitter. Evidently the National Portrait Gallery snapped it up.
Frankly, how could anyone mistake the sitter – d’Eon was my first thought when the image popped up on my screen.
To understand the full d’Eon story, I refer Two Teens in the Time of Austen‘s readers to a biography by Gary Kates, Monseiur d’Eon is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade.
I remember buying this book like it was yesterday (alas: more like 2001! assuming it was newly out in paperback).
I was visiting Dartmouth College, and going to Hanover ALWAYS meant a visit to the delightful Dartmouth Bookstore (now – alack!! – nothing more than another Barnes & Noble). I always searched a couple of sections: history (mainly Britain; France; Austria); biography; travel; and remaindered books in the back of the basement. I still remember where these departments used to be located!
D’Eon must have been in the history section (France), or maybe Gender Studies. I had gone down to New Hampshire by myself that day, and the sun was shining gloriously – I pulled into a park area near the river and hurriedly unwrapped the book from its bag, to look my treasure over more carefully. I had never heard of Charles d’Eon de Beaumont. I’ve pulled the book off the shelf again, and will have to give it a look-through, if not a re-read — now that I know what she looked like.
In the “Smith & Gosling” family it is often DIFFICULT to differentiate the generations: so many similar (SAME) Names!
As is the case here, with Rear-Admiral Sir Michael Seymour (1st baronet):
and his third son, Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, GCB:
Richard Seymour speaks of his father with such great affection and attention to detail in the Memoir of Rear Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, Bart, K.C.B. that I leave it to him to tell you about Sir Michael “the father”, as I call him.
It’s Richard’s brother, Sir Michael the son, that I want to say a few words about tonight.
Michael grabs my attention because he married Dora Knighton – daughter of Sir William Knighton, a confident of the Prince of Wales/George IV. Richard writes of this cousin, often distinguishing her from his sister Dora (yes, there were TWO Dora Seymours!) by referring to her as “Dora K.” She is a sweet-faced young lady in the portrait of her by Linnell. Dora (Knighton) Seymour interests me intensely! But it’s her husband that I find more information about.
An item readers of Two Teens in the Time of Austen will be surprised to hear: Captain Michael Seymour served under Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Austen, Jane’s brother. See this inquiry into the service details of HMS Vindictive.
- “The Navy, Prize-Money and Hampshire,” by Sheila Carey-Thomas
- The Navy List
- The Vindictive (King-Hall)
- Seymour Family History @ Forgotten Books
Michael was a delightful artist, and we find some of his work online:
- Nova Scotia [images don't enlarge]
- “Marriner’s Eye“, article on Michael’s Halifax drawings [page 13]
- at auction @ Christies (1997) [no images]
- “A Portrait of the Country“: Capt. Michael Seymour’s watercolors @ Library of Congress
- More watercolors @ Library of Congress [FABULOUS images!]
What a FABULOUS *FIND*!!
The ‘miracle’ took place in the middle of the night, a couple of nights ago when I unearthed a RECENT exhibition of sketches done by Spencer, Lord Compton c1823. His sketchbook, in the hands of the Fondazione Sicilia, has been “conserved” and “preserved” and the drawings exhibited in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014:
The exhibition spawned a book and two informative (especially if you speak Italian) YouTube videos – including one showing the sketch book in its entirety (which has no soundtrack at all).
The second video (en Italiano) gives glimpses of the condition of the original sketch book, sketches, and their subsequent exhibition.
- “Viaggio in Sicilia” video presentation of the entire Lord Compton’s Sketch book
- “Viaggio in Sicilia” a 3-minute “short” on the sketch book and its exhibition (in Italian)
- Viaggio in Sicilia: il taccuino di Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton (catalogue @ amazon)
Spencer Compton, cousin to Emma and brother to Lady Elizabeth Compton (later Lady Elizabeth Dickins) spent many years in Italy with his wife, the former Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane. Spencer became the second Marquess of Northampton, following his father’s death in 1828.
- the delightful article “The Accomplished Ladies of Torloisk” by Karen Mc Auley
- Plays & Poems by Margaret Compton’s sister Anna Jane Douglas Maclean Clephane (1864)
- present-day Torloisk House, on the Isle of Mull
A “romantic figure” in this Raeburn portrait (painted in the era of his sketch book), Spencer Lord Compton graced the cover of this Georgette Heyer reprint recently.
partial legend from one sketch, in Spencer’s hand-writing
Always searching for more, I’ve come across this ENCHANTING portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – which features a cherubic William Heathcote (later the 5th baronet), with his cousins, painted by William Owen c1803.
The museum’s write-up about the painting is fascinating: for it proves how wrong a catalogue attribution sometimes can be! The baby in the quartet was, in 1938, thought to be William (born in 1801). This then meant that the children surrounding the baby were all little girls… When you click on the picture to see the ENTIRE portrait (it will take you to the Met, and open in another window) you will see why this is so important a mistake.
- when at the Met’s website, click under “catalogue entry” for the painting’s full history
William, who was a GREAT CHUM of Edward Austen, was the son of the Rev William Heathcote, vicar of Worting. Jane Austen knew the Heathcotes well; little William’s mother was the former Elizabeth Bigg, daughter of Lovelace Bigg-Wither. Elizabeth returned to her parental home following the early death of her husband. Jane Austen was friendly with all the Bigg sisters of Manydown.
- read online Materials for a History of The Wither Family
The painter, William Owen, exhibited the work in 1806.
The fascinating part of the history is what happened in 2012 – just two years ago – when a descendent gave the museum access to family history and, based on birth dates, the Met re-evaluated the sitters.
The Heathcote pictures (yes, in the PLURAL) were sold off in the 1930s, by a distant relation who had inherited the baronetcy (as mentioned, Edward Austen’s friend was the 5th baronet). As the website says, the extensive collection “constituted a rather comprehensive record of the appearance of succeeding generations from the late seventeenth century until shortly after 1800“. Breaks my heart to read of families divesting themselves of The Old Family Portraits – but without such divestment these would not be found online now…
Owen’s work has great charm, in the rusticity of the scene presented.
- compare the heir to Hursley with the Gosling family heir, in Beechey’s portrait of William Ellis Gosling
- read online the history of Sir William Heathcote, 5th baronet
I forgot to mention: William Heathcote’s first wife was Caroline Perceval, daughter of the 2nd Baron Arden — who was related to the Comptons of Castle Ashby (ie, Emma Austen’s Aunt and Uncle Northampton). So, in a way, William “married into the family” even before Edward Austen did! (He and Emma Smith married on 16 December 1828.)
While looking for something completely different I unearthed a startling revelation about “Aunt Emma”: When still a very young girl, she won a GOLD MEDAL for DRAWING:
Joshua Smith’s household, when in London, lived at 29 Great George Street, Westminster – this simply has to be the same person, his youngest daughter.
From the few pieces I have seen, Emma did indeed have a great talent for drawing – and a great enjoyment of it, for she filled many albums. Is this copy of Veronese’s “Woman taken in Adultery” somewhere among them?
In 1790, she would have been just Sweet Sixteen.
Have been inhabiting the “Beau Monde” world of the 1790s, and am thoroughly enjoying myself! After having my internet connect down for a week (severe withdrawal symptoms…), I’m now able to cast about for information on one name that turned up: Lady Jersey.
There are several ‘depictions’ of the notorious lover of the Prince of Wales, who evidently honored the lady with his attentions for nearly a decade (1793-1799), at the National Portrait Gallery – by Gillray. “A Lady putting on her cap” (detail above) was published in June 1795. The British Museum gives a nicely-minute description of the scene and some of the “symbolism”. A (short) discussion of the print occurs in the 1848 book England Under the House of Hanover (vol 2).
MY interest in Lady Jersey (née Frances Twysden; AKA Frances Villiers) comes from a letter, which indicates that the Prince of Wales pressed to have Mrs Drummond Smith invite Lady Jersey to one of her soirées in 1797. The hostess was not interested. Oh! for more Smith & Gosling tales along that line!
For inquiring minds, I include two blogs that make mention of Lady Jersey:
- Mike Rendell’s Georgian Gentleman, who celebrated Lady Jersey recent birthday (February 25)
- Good Gentlewomen: Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey
Back in November 2013 I ran a lengthy post, hoping to ID a portrait which was a focal piece in a drawing – possibly sketched by eldest sister Augusta Smith – of some room that was wholly unidentified.
In trying to find information about the ceiling medallions in Tring Park’s drawing room (still in situ!), I found this Hertfordshire website that I’m sure I have read before. Only, last evening, it took on new meaning! The description is all about Drummond Smith’s Tring Park, c1802:
The apartments are handsomely furnished, and in several of them there are some good paintings, among which we cannot avoid noticing a singular whole length of Queen Elizabeth, which hangs in the small drawing-room upon the right of the hall. This painting is not improbably a copy of that by Zucchero, which hangs in the palace at Kensington….
In my original post I was hoping against hope that it might have been a family member. BUT: I’ve now found an image of that very “singular whole length” portrait!
Several books, like this one from 1802, describe the painting, identifying it as a Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, and one among several full-length portraits owned by Drummond (Emma’s great uncle; it is his baronetcy that Charles Joshua Smith, Emma’s eldest brother, inherited). Rather than Kensington Palace, its home is Hampton Court. But even this portrait carries some mystery: fascinating article by Francis Carr (a companion page can be read here).
So much is up for grabs: the portrait’s sitter – its artist – the date it was done. But my mystery has been solved: The room at Tring which once contained the portrait in the sketch being described as “the small drawing room upon the right of the hall.”
NB: In looking for confirmation that it is indeed a portrait of QEI, I found this fab array of portraits:
Breaking news of a terrific website:
If you’re like me, you might look at a portrait and wish you could “date” it; or, you might wish to know what costume looked like, say, in 1817. This database will help! A lot of “famous” faces, and you’ll soon begin to recognize certain “famous” artists, too. But what a wealth of well-arranged, early to navigate information & images!
There’s even a “History Timeline” which lays out a what-happened-when series of happenings, compositions or world events. For instance, if you see 1813’s mention of JANE AUSTEN’S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and wish to see what portraits looked like from c1813, simply click on the link – et voilà!
Artwork represented comes from many nations and time periods; portraits are nicely ID’ed.
Reading through the first chapter of my book (those purchasing Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2013 get a slightly-stale taste of that opening chapter) I was submerged into Mary’s world via her 1814 trip to Oxford when I read aloud the following:
“Two of Mr. Gosling’s four sons resided in college in 1814: William Ellis, the eldest of the seven Gosling children, only weeks beyond his twentieth birthday; and Robert, one year younger. William had entered Brasenose College on 10 July 1812, and seems to have taken no degree. Robert was fairly new to college, having matriculated on 27 January 1814. He stayed through 1822, leaving with a Master’s degree.”
January 27th?! I long have had Monday in mind as “Mozart’s birthday” (you can always tell when the anniversary of that day approaches: the local radio station plays a LOT of Mozart!). But reading my little history, I found myself whispering to myself: two hundred years ago to the day…
I have been lucky enough (thank you Mark & Emma!!) to see a portrait of all three Gosling boys – William, Robert and Bennett – painted some few years later. What a handsome trio! Though, in some ways, the most “pleasing” countenance can be said to belong to Robert. As a toddler he was compared to Falstaff for his roundness; as an old man in a long-exposed photograph he reminded this American of Abraham Lincoln: long, lean, and wearing a stove-pipe hat!
But two-hundred years ago TODAY, on 27 January 1814, Robert Gosling, a young man, had matriculated at Christ College, Oxford — and that summer his sister Mary wrote down the trip her family (“Mama, Papa, my Sister and myself”) took in order to visit the boys. That wasn’t the first diary of hers that I read, but ultimately it has so-far become the earliest of her writings that I have found.
- Did the “Great Hall” of Christ Church College really serve as inspiration for HOGWARTS HALL? Mary was there… and left her thoughts: “The Hall is one of the most magnificent in Oxford.” (and I remember that scene in the first film, vividly)
I’ve been crafting some “mini-biographies” of the Smiths & Goslings lately; one gave a short history of Charlotte Gosling, Mary’s younger (half-) sister. One of the thrilling stories about her occurred early in her life: her Godmother was England’s Queen Charlotte! It is doubtful that her name derives from the Queen; Charlotte Gosling’s mother was another Charlotte, the former Charlotte de Grey. But the connection undoubtedly could not have hurt, and it is possible that Charlotte (de Grey) Gosling was named for the queen: her father, Thomas 2nd Lord Walsingham, was Groom of the Bedchamber during the 1770s (his daughter Charlotte born in 1774).
Charlotte Gosling’s niece, another Charlotte — Charlotte Christie — remembered that when baby Charlotte was christened, her godmother the Queen gave the elder Gosling girls each a brooch, with her likeness. What could have happened to such treasures?!? What might these brooches have looked like? Searching, I found one that _I_ wouldn’t have minded being gifted with, by my sister’s godmother.